M J Bridge

Theory and Conventions



Limit raises

The traditional guidelines for no trump bidding are that with a combined total of;

25 points in two balanced hands then 3NT will be made more often than not by a competent declarer;

33 points stands a good chance of making 6NT (there cannot be two aces out against you);

37 points makes 7NT a realistic prospect (no outstanding ace).

Of course these combined point-holdings will not always produce the required result - that is the nature of the game.

With a flat hand you can simply bid to the appropriate level based on your point-count added to partner’s possible holding.

with 0-10 points you will pass;

with 13-18 points you will bid to 3NT;

with 21-22 points you will bid to 6NT;

with 25 or more points you will bid to 7NT.

Note that you do not have to memorise these ranges.  Just learn the three magic totals of 25, 33, and 37, then work out each specific case as it comes along.

(e.g. - you pick up a flat 17-point hand - partner holds 12-14 - total equals 29 to 31 - enough for game, not enough for a slam - bid 3NT.)

I have missed out three ranges in this table:-

with 11 or 12 points there might be sufficient for a game, but you cannot be certain.

(I shall describe such hands as ‘having invitational values’ throughout this site.)

Bid 2NT, inviting partner to pass with a minimum or bid 3NT with a maximum.

(Note that I shall modify this guidance just a little when I come to look at ‘improvers’ methods’.)

with 19 or 20 points the partnership might hold the magic total of 33 points justifying a contract of 6NT.

Bid 4NT - an invitation to partner to pass with a minimum or bid 6NT with a maximum;

with 23 or 24 points your combined holding might reach the magic total of 37.

Bid 5NT, instructing partner to bid 6NT with a minimum or 7NT with a maximum.

K Q 2

Q J 7

Q 8 3 2

Q 8 4

Partner opened 1NT.

Balanced shape - twelve points.

Bid 2NT.  (In teams, or if partner opened in fourth seat or vulnerable in second, you might bid 3NT directly).

K Q 2

A J 7

K J 4 2

A K 3

Partner opened 1NT.

Balanced shape - twenty one points.

Bid 6NT.  The hand is minimum for this bid, but you have from 33 to 35 points between you so give it a go.

K J 2

A J 7

K J 4 2

A K 3

Partner opened 1NT.

Twenty points in a flat hand.

You might have only thirty two points between you - you might have thirty three or thirty four.  Bid 4NT, and leave partner to bid on with a maximum.

A Q 5 2

A K 7

K J 2


Partner opened 1NT.  I had a hand like this once - just the once.  At least thirty eight points between you.  Bid 7NT, and marvel at your partner’s exquisite declarer play.  With a small club instead of the queen you would bid 5NT, inviting partner to bid at least 6NT, and to bid the grand if he has better than a minimum.

Although not relevant when using just beginner methods it is worth observing that these ranges and target levels will continue to apply even when you take a slower route.

Thus, for example, if you make some bid other than a weak take-out and then rebid 2NT it will carry the same message of eleven or twelve points just as when the bid was made immediately.  This will be an important concept at such time as you add Stayman and/or transfers to your methods.

Note that I prefaced the above with the proviso that you hold a flat hand - each of the examples above features 4-3-3-3 shape.

Usually, of course, you don’t.

Even with a balanced hand you should search for a better strain if that is a real possibility.

In the context of beginner methods this situation will arise when you have game-going or better values and a five-card major.  In this specific situation your first step will be to make a natural and forcing bid at the three-level in your major suit, but a further bid in no trumps by you if partner fails to agree your suit will carry the same message about points range as above.

A Q 8 5 2

A K 7

K J 2

A 2

Partner opened 1NT.

Bid 3 (natural and forcing).

If partner bids 3NT you will raise to 6NT, and if partner bids 4 you will raise to 6.

Beginner and above

You may or may not choose to take a similar route when holding a five-card or longer minor.

Context  -  Partner opened 1NT - RHO passed - a beginning method.

This page last revised 19th Aug 2019

Opener’s first bid

Opener’s rebid